trainer and in life in general that acknowledging I don’t know everything helps
keep my mind open to learning new methods and avoid the pitfalls of preconceived
notions. I understand that dogs as well as handlers are at various places on a
learning curve and that each team will develop its own style that will ultimately work
for them. I aim to provide my students various agility methods; whether teaching the
front x, rear x, blind x or the whacky-backy I am ultimately equipping students tools
for them to pull out of their pockets that will work for their team.
Although I teach the skills required for the sport of agility the reality is that the
most important thing above all else is the teamwork between a handler and their
dog. Teamwork that is built on the foundation of a bond that is both intimate
and personal. This bond is developed outside the classroom and outside the
agility ring; agility will help strengthen the bond but don’t expect to succeed at
agility if you fail to understand how to connect with your dog.
One of the first things I learned as a child from my dog Barron was his intelligence;
his ability to observe us as a family and learn from us. Barron would always sit
by the front door just before my father came home and my mother thought he was
psychic; however, the truth was that my father would phone from the office just
before he left and my mother would always have a cup of tea ready for him.
Barron studied our behavior and through his observations took cues from us on
what was about to happen in our daily routine. As dog handlers we
need to take the time to observe our dog’s behavior and what cues they are
giving us. Whether they want to go out to relieve themselves, are they relaxed
or stressed about a noise or do they simply want some attention and to play.
Acknowledging our dogs’ cues builds your dogs trust in you as pack leader.
The other element for a strong agility teams is the ability to make the activity
fun for your dog. When your dog is having fun he’ll want to do the activity over
and over. And if you are having fun your dog will want to join in the fun. Dogs
as well as human’s ability to learn is enhanced when it is enjoyable. So have fun,
laugh at the miscommunications and let your dog run past that obstacle without
reprimand –, they can catch it next time. We want our dogs to work for the sheer joy
of agility and receiving treats or tug toy play is just the added bonus.
Dog agility can be a challenging team sport with the burden of success depending
on the handler and not on the dog. If one method isn’t working for your team then
try something new. As a dog trainer I can provide the knowledge and various handling
skills required for you to learn the art of dog agility but it takes the leadership of the
individual handlers to develop teamwork and to make it fun. Whether weaving or
leaping remember this - its all about the play!
Salty Dogs Agility Club